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Existence and Formal Logic Author(s): A. O. Lovejoy Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology and Scientific Methods, Vol. 8, No. 24 (Nov. 23, 1911), pp. 660-663 Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc. Stable URL: . Accessed: 07/11/2013 07:01
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processes by which its facts are given, the social scientist must become a philosopher and treat the antecedents of knowledge as well as its manifestations. A simple but united viewpoint can thus be obtained which will blend the various groups of insurgents into one body, with one method and one measure of truth. Pragmatism must become more than pragmatism to succeed, for the truth relation can not be settled apart from other fundamental problems that recent progress has forced modern thought to face. Pragmatism, sociology, economics, and history are not distinct sciences, but merely different ways of looking at the same facts. The logic, the method, and the mode of verification are the same in all of them. They all must accept consequences as the ultimate test of truth, and these consequences are measured in the same broad field of social endeavor. To gain this end, the intellectual reliance on premises must be broken. There is thus a clear issue between the new and the old. Is truth measured through its consequences or through its antecedents? Is thought static or dynamic? Is the mind a structural unit or a genetic growth? Shall investigation proceed positively from data or skeptically from analysis and differentiation of ideas? In different terms and in many ways these questions are being asked. They all lead back to a common ground and demand the same solution. When they are answered, human thought will have advanced into a new stage and the obstacles to social progress will be much reduced.

EXISTENCE AND FORMAL LOGIC 31, 1911, Professor Marvin propounds a new definition of the notion of "existence" in "terms of formal logic. " He arrives at this by means of an analysis of the distinction between the propositions that constitute formal or "nonexistential" science and those that constitute factual or "existential" science-a procedure which perhaps has a certain prima facie appearance of circularity. The definition thus reached I am not sure that I correctly understand; taken literally it appears to be either tautological or else inclusive of its own negation. It runs as follows: "The existent is the asserted sufficient condition of any true proposition; and accordingly a term is said to exist when it is a member of a proposition that is the asserted sufficient condition of some true proposition." By a "sufficient condition" of a proposition the context indicates that Professor Marvin means a proposition which is so for August IN this JOURNAL

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related to another proposition that the latter either implies it or is implied by it. Thus the dictum de omni would be a "sufficient condition" of the more specific rules of the syllogism; for they are true propositions which it implies. It does not, however, appear to be a proposition which Professor Marvin would classify as existential. It is evident, therefore, that the essential differentia of "the existent," as expressed in the proposed definition, lies in the word "asserted": the existent is an asserted sufficient condition. One inquires, therefore, what "asserted" here means. Obviously it can not mean "asserted to be true"; for that would, once more, apply equally to propositions of merely formal and "non-existential" truth. Yet in the passage (p. 478) where the adjective "asserted" is first introduced and partly explained, it seems to mean "asserted to be true." For the difference between existential and non-existential science is that the latter consists of propositions such as "p implies q, where we do not know whether or not p [itself a proposition] or q are true," but know only the correlation of the truth of p [whenever it happens to be true] with the truth of q. Though non-existential science is about propositions which are not asserted, the propositions which it makes about those propositions are by it asserted; it is indifferent to such a science whether p and q are true or false, but it is not indifferent to it whether the statement "p implies q" is true or false. But since the sense in which the term "asserted" is used in making the distinction between existential and non-existential science will not, as we have seen, fit into Professor Marvin's definition of the existent (as "the asserted sufficient condition of any true proposition"), the reference to that distinction does not help us to understand what "asserted" does mean in the latter formula. The only remaining sense, indeed, which readily suggests itself, is "asserted to exist" or "involving an assertion of existence"; but this, of course, in a definition of "existence," would be a pure tautology. One can not suppose, therefore, that Professor Marvin uses the word in either of these senses. Since the kernel of his whole definition is contained in the word, I hope he will tell us in what third sense he wishes the word to be understood. But though the terms of the definition offered remain somewhat obscure, certain things that seem sufficiently clear in Professor Marvin's enterprise appear to me to justify a doubt concerning the feasibility of defining existence "only in terms of formal logic." Two of these difficulties I venture to try to set forth. 1. Two species of existential proposition are enumerated: "The first is of the form p implies q where p is asserted, the second is of the form q is asserted, p implies q, hence p is asserted." These species, furthermore, appear to be regarded as exhaustive of the

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genus determined by the definition. From this it would follow that all existential propositions are propositions about implication-the implication of one proposition by another. This, of course, does not give the whole account of such propositions; it gives only their generic character. Their specific character, or differentia, as we have seen, is, for Professor Marvin, that one of the two propositions, about whose relations of implication the existential proposition makes an assertion, must be given from the outset as itself "asserted"; and the difficulty about this differentia has already been noted. But in any case, the generic part of the definition of a term is an essential part; and thus the proposed definition declares that existential propositions, by their essential nature, always deal with the implications between other propositions-that this is what they mean. This seems to me a paradoxical conclusion. I should have supposed that by "existential propositions" one meant propositions in which existence (whatever that may be) is predicated of something; that the subjects of which this predicate may be affirmed are not necessarily themselves propositions, but may be all kinds of concrete things, persons, or events; and that, whatever else this predicate may signify, the mere logical relatedness, by way of implication, between two propositions (even if one of them is "asserted") is peculiarly remote from what "we mean when we use the word 'exist' in daily life, in science, " or even " in philosophy." 2. Professor Marvin (if I get the meaning of pages 490-491) holds that to make assertions about a past existence is "but to assert that data are now at hand" which "imply or are implied by" that past existence. Though he notes that some may regard these present data as constituting rather the ground than the meaning of oiir existential judgments about the past, he himself appears to find il this distinction no valid reason for rejecting the view indicated. And this view is apparently conceived to follow from the proposed definition of " existence." It is thus implied that an assertion that something existed in the past of which no conclusive traces now survive would be an assertion void of meaning. It would, doubtless, be an unverifiable, and therefore unreasonable, assertion; but why shoiild one call it meaningless? The proposition: "Queen Elizabeth married Dudley, but all the material evidence of the ceremony was destroyed, and all the witnesses, direct or hearsay, are long since dead, " would doubtless be a queer proposition for an historian to lay down, since by its own terms it would be incapable of proof. But surely it would be an existential proposition; it would have mieaning, in the sense that every one of its terms, and their affirmed relations, are intelligfible, and even that one could tell what sort of present data wiould be requisite in order to enable one to decide as to the truth or

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falsity of the main assertion about the marriage ceremony. No concepts appear to be more clearly and confidently distinguished by our minds than that of the meaning of a predicate, and that of the verifiability of a proposition in which the given predicate is affirmed or denied of a given subject. And I can not see that any persuasive reason is offered for supposing "past existence" and "now verifiable past existence" to be a whit less distinct in meaning than are. say, "squareness" of a non-perceived object, and "now verifiable squareness. " Perhaps what Professor Marvin means is that the assertion of a proposition about the past implies the truth of that proposition, and that truth is identical with verifiability. But we all suppose many propositions about the past to be true of which the truth can not be established; their unverifiability is never regarded as proof of their untruth. A definition of existence which requires us to give up this distinction seems to me a doubtful boon. These difficulties, I think, arise, in spite of the admirable logical ingenuity which Professor Marvin brings to the argument, from the inherently unpromising nature of his undertaking. Formal logid is itself a non-existential science; it of itself asserts no existences, but only implications, and it does not care whether the terms of the propositions with whose implications it deals are existences or not. In this sense, therefore, it is a realm to which the whole notion of ''existence" is alien. It is accordingly a rather unlikely place in which to look for aid in the elucidation of that notion. And such aid as may seem to be had there will probably be found to have been surreptitiously introduced (probably by means of a logical circle) from outside its boundaries. A. 0. LOVEJOY.




Clever Hans (the Horse of Mr. von Osten): A Contribution to Experimental, Animal, and Human Psychology.

introduction (and four supplements) by C. STUMPF. Translated by CARLL. RAHN. With a prefatory note by James R. Angell. New York: Henry iolt & Company. 1911. Pp. vi + 274. A demonstration of the working of animal association-processesand the difficultyof their properinterpretation,more spectacularand at once more conclusive than Mr. Pfungst here presents, has yet to be recorded. His account may be read with the interest of an exciting novel, and yet with great and lasting profit by any one at all interested in animal behavior or in the problemsof animal consciousness,whetherhis interest be that of the comparativepsychologist, the naturalist, or the mere lover of domestic animals.

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